Knights defeat Chaps, go 5-0 at AISD tournament

Varsity baseball caps off undefeated weekend with an 8-5 win over 6A sports powerhouse Westlake

Senior Ethan Vandament not only hit a bases-clearing RBI triple to drive in three runs in the top of the fifth but also pitched a complete game with six strikeouts and five earned runs allowed.

Grace Nugent, online co-editor in chief

The McCallum Knights have beaten the Westlake Chaparrals in sports.

The win did not come on a walk-off, or with Westlake throwing its JV pitchers in place of its varsity hurlers but rather by a three-run margin in a game with both clubs’ first units on the field.

McCallum beat Westlake 8-5 in varsity baseball. In the final and most highly anticipated game of the AISD varsity baseball tournament, following wins against Del Valle, East View, Pflugerville and Akins, the Knights played the Chaps, the current 6A Division 1 state champions in football and a 6A state finalist in boys basketball, looking to add one more win to go 5-0 on the tournament. 

Westlake opened up scoring in the bottom of the first when designated hitter Braden Davis smashed a two-run homer. 

The Knights answered back in the top of the second when senior Ethan Vandament doubled on a line drive to center field, bringing in senior Connor Boggs and junior Wyatt Cunningham.

In the top of the fifth inning, Westlake led 5-3, when freshman Sam Stevens drew a two-out walk on a full count with runners on first and second to push junior Cal Dunham to third and junior Diego Barraz to second. 

Dunham scored on a passed ball, and Barraz and Stevens advanced into scoring position. Cunningham was walked to load the bases and bring pitcher and leadoff hitter Vandament to the plate. On a 1-2 count, Vandament tripled on a fly ball to center field, plating all three baserunners to give the Knights a 7-5 lead. 

Freshman Sam Stevens had one run and drew a critical base on balls during the offensive-heavy fifth inning. Photo by Grace Nugent.

“I was extremely hyped up, I think we all were,” junior first baseman Andy Honea said. “Westlake kept heckling us, but we stayed focus on what we were trying to do, and Ethan delivered for the entire team.” 

Senior Easton Salinas then singled on a line drive to right field bringing in Yzmael Izquierdo, a courtesy runner for Vandament. While the score had the Knights on top, there was still half an inning to play. It was set up for another Westlake success story, but Vandament wrote a different ending to the story this time, inducing two groundouts, and ending the game on a four-pitch strikeout to earn the Knights a victory over a talented, much-heralded 6A opponent. 

The Knights’ highlight moments includes a rare triple play between senior third baseman Jacob Masters and sophomore catcher Pablo Lopez during the bottom of the second inning. 

“The pitch call was a sinker that was supposed to cut in on the hands of the batter,” Lopez said. “It did just that, the ball was hit and rolled over to Masters, who stepped on third getting the force out there and threw home.”

Masters’ through beat the runner home, and Lopez tagged him out for the second out of the inning. After the briefest of pauses, the Chap on second broke for third, and Lopez rifled the ball back to Masters who tagged the runner for out No. 3.

On old baseball adage is that you never want to make the first or third out at third base, and the Chaps did both in the same play. The poor base running and the Knight defense kept the game close, giving the Knights a chance for the heroics that came later. 

“But one win doesn’t mean anything if you lose the rest. We still have to go out and prove every single day that we can hang and compete with the best. There is still a lot to work on

— senior captain Ethan Vandament

“It caught me by surprise,”  Lopez. “At that point, my mind was just telling me to throw the ball as hard as I could because we couldn’t allow for a runner to get on third.”  

According to Lopez, the play not only helped the Knights get out of a jam of having two runners in scoring position, but it helped the team realize to trust each other and execute complex plays instictually. 

While ecstatic about the victory, Vandament said it won’t mean much unless the team keeps playing well.

“Our offense was on point today,” he said. “We executed very well and drove in runners when we needed to, but one win doesn’t mean anything if you lose the rest. We still have to go out and prove every single day that we can hang and compete with the best. There is still a lot to work on.” 

Vandament had five RBIs in the game and pitched a complete game to earn the win, surrendering five runs and striking out five. The Knights racked up 10 hits on the day with Salinas, Masters, and Vandament having multiple-hit games. Salinas went 3-for-4 at the plate and led the Knights in hits. 

“We can still improve on some mental errors,” Salinas said afterward. “Yes, this win was huge, but now we must focus on the games in front of us. I personally feel as if I’m finally breaking out at the plate and hitting well.” 

Speaking of upcoming games, the Knights will play their final tournament, the Leander ISD tournament, this upcoming Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Rouse, Austin High, Texans, Killeen and McNeil are all on the slate before district play beings March 15.

The Knights will finish their tournament play this upcoming Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Leander ISD tournament. (Grace Nugent)